Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

December 12, 2012

Navajo Janene Yazzie: Solidarity with Palestine

Photo Calvin Johnson, Navajo
Navajo explains why the toxic Navajo president doesn't need to go to Israel to learn how to use chemicals to grow food

By Janene Yazzie
Censored News

It should not shock or surprise us that our Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has taken an unexpected trip to visit Israel, a government that has committed itself to carrying out genocidal practices against it's population of indigenous Palestinian peoples. I make this argument because our President has illustrated himself to be unfit to make the kind of informed, wise, and strong decisions that promote the inherent rights of our own Dine (Navajo) people; let alone prove himself to be the kind of leader that is concerned or educated about the campaign of genocide waged by Israel.

"The Solar Hogan is a sustainable energy-efficient design centered
 around the traditional Navajo Hogan, retaining the many spiritual and
cultural meanings of our traditional dwellings. Sadly the Solar Hogan design,
praised to be the future of Navajo Nation Housing, has not received any
 support from Navajo Nation agencies since it was first introduced by
 architect Dennis Halloway and Dr. Charles Cambridge in 1989. This is only
 one of the many promising projects promoted by Sixth World Solutions to empower
 communities to utilize local materials, smart technology and innovative design to
 meet the desperate housing needs faced by so many Dine people.
For more information contact Janene Yazzie at"
In his official press release he is quoted as saying, “Our trip is also about cultural exchange in this part of the world where the Israeli people co-exist with their neighbors," listing his priorities as "Agriculture, Technology, Tourism, Infrastructure, and Government Services." Meanwhile his actions within the past year alone have shown his complacency in the violation of the Human Rights of our own people through his endorsement of the toxic "Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement." As part of his campaign to support this bill his "government services" included sending armed swat teams and Navajo Nation people (and in some places state police) to intimidate his own people at public forums and to censure opposition.

His open investment in coal and the policies that support them, as well as his contradiction between rhetoric and actions when it comes to Uranium, all serve to create enormous obstacles to the implementation of plans proposed by Dine entrepreneurs to transform our Nation into one that produces clean energy projects. He has actively tried to discredit, de-legitimize and exclude his own people in important decisions that regard the future of our Nation until we formed overpowering grassroots organizations. Yet still our arguments for social and environmental justice, for investment in sustainable economic development based on clean energy, and localizing food production continue to be met with resistance. To hear that our president believes the apartheid government of Israel has more to offer than the Dine people in his homeland fighting against his policies is hurtful and unbelievably ignorant.

In communities across our nation there is a struggle to localize food production by returning to traditional methods of farming and irrigation suitable to our climate, our soils, our native foods, and the values of our culture. Instead of visiting these projects or investing in them President Shelly has gone to Israel to learn about "Fertigation," a method that is dependent on the use of chemical fertilizers. There are other Dine entrepreneurs such as myself trying to introduce sustainable ways of building energy-efficient homes out of local materials, with waste-water recycling systems that allow us to optimize our use of this precious resource. The underlying conflict in all these issues is that all these grassroots projects employ "alternative methods of development" that empower communities to work together to meet their own local needs. However the projects that have received open support and funding within the past year are based on the unsustainable model of top-down private investments, based on illusions of trickle-down economics.

If President Shelly was really interested in how he could create the kind of development that will really serve the numerous needs of our people he would know that his first priority should be to invest in his own people and become a leader that protects our rights. If he is to represent us on the international level then he needs to become knowledgeable on the unsustainable structures that underlie our current globalized market systems. Lastly, it is imperative that he begin to understand what those of us on the grassroots-level understand; that in order to establish alternative forms of development we have to fight against the status quo of existing systems of power that prevent us from achieving our self-sufficiency. This makes it our responsibility as the largest tribal nation in the U.S. to stand in solidarity with the struggles of Indigenous peoples all over the world who continue to fight removal, exploitation and open acts of genocide on their ancestral lands. I stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and those Indigenous nations and non-indigenous peoples fighting against continued corporate, religious, and political exploitation. Only when we hold our leaders accountable to their electorates, only when we take a united stand against unsustainable market-practices, and only when we accept that all our homelands are changing from climate change, will we be able to unite around a new vision of how humanity should progress. From my experience returning home to join the resistance inside my nation, this is the true heart of the Dine people, and it is a vision that has not been respected or shared by our President Ben Shelly.

Janene Yazzie
Sixth World Solutions, CEO

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